Ithaca Blog

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ithaca Food: Weekly Contest for First Week of April

The answer to last week's question - how long do scientists say we have until we reach the "tipping point" of global warming, at which point it becomes irreversible? - is, ten years. This is why the town of Woodstock has voted to reduce net carbon emissions by the town to zero within ten years (see earlier Ithaca Blog posting).

Winners were Eileen T. and Jim L., both of Ithaca. They win $10 gift certificates to Small World Music.

This week's contest derives from a bit we heard on NPR this morning, about a British magazine article on 50 foods one should eat before dying, or something like that. Slightly morbid and excessive, we know, so we decided to adapt the proposition a bit for this week's contest activity:

Name a food that you get from a particular place in Ithaca that you think a visitor to Ithaca should definitely sample - or, for that matter, other residents should relish (so to speak).

Need an example? How about the chocolate souffle cake at Just A Taste?

We will randomly select, from among all entries, a winner for a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music. Send your entry directly to Small World Music at

Entries will be accepted all week, and winners announced next Saturday (7 April). Then we think we will go out and review and report all the entries for Ithaca Blog. Tough work, but someone's got to do it.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, March 30, 2007

Weekend Activities, 30 March - 1 April

The State Theater has a slate of shows celebrating the unusual but entertaining: a cappella singing, tap dancing, and David Sedaris.

Friday's show is Acappellooza. Hosted by Ithacappella, from Ithaca College, the show brings together collegiate a cappella groups from throughout the northeast. Tickets are general admission, $12 for adults, $7.50 for seniors and students.

Saturday is "Walking in Time: the Annual Finger Lakes Tap Dance Festival". General admission tickets are $19 in advance, $13 for seniors and students.

Sunday is David Sedaris, the author and National Public Radio essayist. General admission tickets are $37.50, but he sold the place out last time, and probably will again.

Other shows:

On Saturday, the Crossing Borders concert series presents singer and guitarist Marta Topferova, at 8 pm at the Community School of Music and Arts. The New York Times writes of Ms. Topferova, "... a Czech singer whose heart is in Latin American music. She dips into styles from across the Caribbean and South America - Cuban son, Venezuelan joropo, Puerto Rican bomba - plays the cuatro, and sings with an elegant longing in her voice." Tickets are $12 in advance, available at Small World Music, and $15 at the door.

On Sunday, Carrie Rodriguez returns to Castaways at 8 pm. Ms. Rodriguez was here a few years ago when "Red Dog Tracks", the CD she made with Chip Taylor, was riding high. She's back fronting her own band, without Mr. Taylor, but with Richie Stearns, who contributed to that CD.

Enjoy yourself -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Change at the State Theater: Director Leaving

Matt Joslyn, director of the State Theater, announced today he is leaving for a job in Ohio, where his family resides.

Matt's tenure at the theater was brief, but accomplished. He brought a wide variety of acts to the theater, and reached out to multiple segments of the community to create for the State a status as an Ithaca institution, but very much a living one.

The big names at the theater in the past year included Doc Watson, Ralph Stanley, the Indigo Girls, David Bromberg, George Carlin, the official Broadway touring production of "Wonderful Town", Lewis Black, Jeff Dunham, and the Roche Sisters.

Two weeks ago, on St. Patrick's Day, the State hosted a benefit concert for local peace groups which drew over 1,000 people, and local congressman Maurice Hinchey spoke from the stage.

Matt's gracious personal presence at the shows created a feeling of warmth and inclusion that will will tough to replace. We will miss him, but are happy for his opportunity to work closer to his family.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Embedded Journalist" Bob Woodward at Ithaca College, 18 April

Washington Post staffer Bob Woodward will speak at Ithaca College on 18 April in an event open to the public.

The college has not yet announced ticket details for the event, which is likely to draw wide attendance.

Woodward is famous as the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who exposed the Watergate conspiracy for the Washington Post with fellow reporter Carl Bernstein.

In recent years, Woodward has generated controversy as a so-called embedded journalist within the Bush administration, trading high-level access for detailed but uncritical best-selling books, and frequently withholding newsworthy information from the public (and his employer, the Washington Post) for use in his books.

Most recently, Woodward has voiced rigorous partisanship for his contacts within the Bush adminstration in comments on the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice in the investigation of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. Before the trial began, on the Larry King show, Woodward said,

First of all, this began not as somebody launching a smear campaign . . . I'm quite confident we're going to find out that it started as a kind of gossip, as chatter . . . I don't see an underlying crime here.

The trial showed that there was indeed a smear campaign launched by the White House, that it was not innocent gossip, and that it was criminal. Lewis Libby was convicted on four of five counts and faces thirty years in prison.

It would almost feel better to think that Woodward was so wrong because of diminshed capacities, instead of diminished integrity, but it seems clear that he has gone from investigator to apologist. He went on to say, about the substance of the Plame case,

They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that Joe Wilson's wife was outed. And it turned out it was quite minimal damage.

Easy for him to say, as Plame's career ended, and her covert work (and likely her contacts) were exposed. And for what?

Woodward's complacency is difficult to accept - but simple to understand, ironically, when thinking back to the famous phrase from Deep Throat about the Watergate scandal: Follow the Money.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Contest for the Week of March 23 - 29

Our contest this week relates to our Ithaca Blog posting for Saturday 24 March, and the topic of global warming.

According to scientists, how many years does the world have "before reaching an irreversible tipping point"?

We will consider an answer within 20 % of the timeline a correct answer.

Because we like to reward not only expertise, but attempts, we have two prizes: one randomly selected from the correct entries, and one from the incorrect.

Winners receive a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, your home for tunes hot and cool. (See information about SWM, and a lovely drawing by Todd Saddler of our building, in the pdf links in the Ithaca Blog sidebar.) Send your entry to the store at Entries will be accepted all week, and the winners announced on Friday, 29 March.

Good luck!

Steve Burke
for Small World Music and Ithaca Blog

Woodstock Aims for Zero Emissions in Ten Years

Woodstock, New York has a reputation for progressivism that is tough to match. It must also be hard to live up to, but the town is trying. Last week, the Woodstock Town Board passed a resolution to reduce net carbon emissions in the town to zero, within a decade.

The basic idea is both to reduce emissions and to create clean power, reaching zero emissions by the town creating more power than it uses.

Like the public library here in Ithaca, the town hall in Woodstock has solar energy panels on its roof. The town plans to install them on other public buildings, and on the town's large public parking garage.

On the reduction side, the town plans to increase recycling programs, improve the efficiency of town vehicles, and create incentives for home-owners to use solar power.

Although the Woodstcok resolution passed unanimously, no one is saying it will be easy, or particularly feasible. The feeling of this famously idealistic and creative town is that the real failure in life is not to confront problems and pursue dreams.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, March 23, 2007

March 23 and 24 Weekend Shows

Friday: the big event tonight is the benefit concert at Castaways for the Cayuga Nature Trail. The show has a compelling gimmick: all Beatles songs, covered by local bands. You have to be a real sour square not to love the noisy, nutty, happy Beatles, I once read (I was seven, I think).

The show includes Hubcap, Plastic Nebraska, Joe Crookston, Five2, Jaime Notarthomas, and others. Mary Lorson will be there and plans to perform "Cry Baby Cry", which alone will be worth the price of admission, which is of course goes to a good cause. Tickets at the door are $15. Doors open at 8 pm and the show will start at 9.

Saturday: the Roche Sisters are at the State Theater. The Roches were quite a revelation when they first hit the big time almost 30 years ago: great harmonies, great songs, artistically liberated, and funny. They are reunited as a touring and recording trio after a long hiatus. Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

GrassRoots Festival Early Bird Tickets On Sale Now

Spring is officially here, and summer seems tantalizingly close with the availability of GrassRoots Festival tickets, on sale now at Small World Music and other locations.

In the past few years, tickets were available on 15 February. Printing problems delayed them until now for the 2007 festival, which goes from Thursday 19 July - Sunday 22.

Early Bird tickets are an especially good value this year, as their price has not increased, but advance sale tickets and at the gate prices have. Early Bird tickets are available through April, and are $65 for the four days. Advance sale tickets will be $85, and at the gate $105.

Tickets for individual days, and Youth tickets, are available only at the gate.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Author Jeremy Scahill to Ithaca?

Don't make plans just yet to go to Geneva on 17 April to see Jeremy Scahill, author of "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army" (see prior Ithaca Blog postings).

The Bookery 2 has made an inquiry with Scahill's publishers for an appearance at the Dewitt Mall bookstore on 18 April.

Stay posted to Ithaca Blog for developments.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

New Book on Blackwater

Jeremy Scahill, a reporter for the Nation magazine and radio's "Democracy Now!", has a new book on Blackwater USA, the private military contractor and security firm that acts as an army in Iraq, for billions of dollars in taxpayer money, without Congressional scrutiny.

"Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army" was released last month, and has reached the best-seller list for non-fiction books.

Scahill will be appearing in Geneva in April for a reading.

Ithaca Blog has made inquiries to local bookstores to see about the possibility of Scahill coming to Ithaca.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Temptation of War, and Our Protection Against It

The temptation of war is understandably extreme for the Bush administration and those aligned with it.

It doesn't cost them anything, and it brings a lot of money.

The military itself is volunteer, made up of the working class. So the rich don't suffer or die or have their families sundered.

The current war is paid for not with increased taxes, as every previous American war was, but with increased debt, which the working and middle classes bear inordinately, and will for decades.

The war has already cost $500 billion. It will cost at least that much again, experts say, before it is over, with debt service, and for care for veterans afterward. (They don't speculate on how difficult it might be for the neediest actually to get that care.)

40 percent of all expenditure for the war goes to from the public sector to private contractors, such as Halliburton and Blackwater.

And, of course, the fundamental reason for the war is to control oil. If it was to nullify Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, we would have been back a long time ago.

With war so profitable for the powerful, it is a challenge to prevent it from happening unnecessarily, or under false pretenses.

That is why it is important for the current Democratic leadership in Congress to consider impeaching the president, who created this war with willful manipulation of facts.

The current war is an atrocity, of course. It is also a fearsome precedent, if its creation goes unchallenged.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Concerted Efforts for Peace in Ithaca

The crowds at the rally for peace on the Ithaca Commons and the peace concert at the State Theater on St. Patrick's Day were heartening.

Harsh weather threatened the Commons turnout, but 600 people, undaunted by the cold and snow, gathered for an end to the war.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey spoke to the crowd. Hinchey has been a forceful opponent to the war since the beginning.

Mr. Hinchey stayed for the Karan Casey concert, where he made brief remarks to the crowd of over 1,000. He received warm acknowledgement from the crowd for his leadership. (Before taking the stage, Mr. Hinchey expressed amused doubt at the suggestion that the crowd would stand for him. In fact, many did.)

Like our congressman, Ithaca as a community has shown great leadership for American principles of peaceful foreign policy, and law-abiding government at home. Let us continue.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Can Fall Creek Pictures Bring Back "God Grew Tired Of Us"?

It must have been a contractual point that had "God Grew Tired Of Us" in and out of Fall Creek Pictures in one week. Certainly it is not a reflection on the quality of this award-winning documentary, nor its ability to draw an audience (given time for word of mouth to spread), nor its importance.

"God Grew Tired" tells the story of the war in the Sudan, which orphaned thousands of children, who fled hundreds of miles on foot, in journeys lasting years, to asylum in a United Nations refugee camp in Kenya. 3800 of them were selected for refugee status in the United States, and the film tells the story of three of them. One of the featured men is John Bul Dao, who came to Syracuse.

The film documents - not overly graphically - the horror of the war in Sudan, and the attendant horrors of genocide and deprivation, mass starvation and rampant disease. It also documents - again, in a gradual revelation - the mental and emotional challenges of survival, beyond the physical ones.

The challenges of survival abate somewhat in America, of course, but not entirely.

First, there are the challenges of a new and perplexingly modern country (before coming here, the men never, as one says, "used electricity", worrying about its possible complexity). Then there is the problem of money, when even with steady jobs and substinance living, the men find they can barely make ends meet, which they never expected in this land of riches. And then there is the harrowing loneliness of a society where people scarcely speak to one another - much less dance or sing together, as in the homeland the men knew.

John Bul Dao worked and went to college in Syracuse, and today is a leader for peace and humanitarian work. It is startling to think of a man with such a story here in central New York. But then it makes you think of the story of each of us, and the struggles behind each individual life to become better and more free. It makes you think about your neighbors, and speaking to them.

We hope that Fall Creek Cinema or Cinemapolis, its sister cinema, will bring the movie back for more people to see.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, March 15, 2007

St. Patrick's Weekend in Ithaca

Maybe it's because Ireland has suffered so much itself from foreign occupation and oppression that it is sensitive to issues of peace and justice. Maybe it's also part of the Irish character. The Irish are famously inimical to authority, especially when the authority is ill-used, as is usually the case. Ireland is one of the few European countries never to colonize nor occupy another.

This weekend in Ithaca, St. Patrick's Day becomes a rallying point for mass efforts for peace.

On Thursday and Friday, Cornell Cinema is showing a documentary on the Camden 28, the anti-Vietnam War activists who were acquited of criminal charges for destroying draft records in 1971. Ed McGowan, one of the defendants (and an Ithaca resident, and fiddler for the local Irish band, Traonach) will speak at the Thursday showing.

On Saturday, Karan Casey, the great Irish singer, performs a benefit concert at the State Theater for local peace groups. (See prior postings on Ithaca Blog for background and many details.) Tickets will be available at the door for $17, and in advance for $15 at Small World Music. Small World Music also has tickets available for senior and youth rates. Call 256-0428 for details.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mealing Up: Restaurant Serendipity at Ithaca Ale House

We don't solicit free meals from restaurants for reviews like the Ithaca Times, and to be quite frank we don't want to get that fat, eating out all the time. So we don't really review restaurants at Ithaca Blog, so much as mention them occasionally, and then it tends to be ones we know and like already, not new ones we set out to explore.

But this past weekend we went out to a new one, by default: the Ithaca Ale House, and we liked it nicely enough to want to mention it.

The default part comes because we were supposed to meet friends last Saturday at one of our favorites, the Lost Dog, around the corner from the Eileen Ivers show we were going to at the State Theater. But the power went out in the neighborhood, and the Lost Dog was closed. So we had to scramble. Everywhere was jammed, with normal Saturday night trade, plus more from the restaurants that had been struck by unlighting.

Ithaca Ale House was the first place we found that could seat us in sufficient number (five) right away. So that was the place.

And it is a good place. At first glance it seems a lot like Benchwarmers, with a large sandwich and burger menu. And actually that was good enough for us that night. But they do have a number of specials that are more ambitious. One of us had one, a scallops dish, that had the trappings of fanciness, like a very, very large plate, and sauces laid out on it like a painting.

All the dishes were quite satisfactory, and the service was fast and pleasant. We told them we needed to get to a show on time, and they made sure that happened.

Befitting their name, by the way, and as you can imagine, they have a long list of beers, from sour to sweet, and the ones we tasted were fresh and good.

Ithaca Ale House is on Aurora Street, between Hal's Deli and Viva Tacqueria, in the old Wownet Cafe. Remnants of that tenant can be found in the many electrical outlets for internet use that was part of that place's raison d'etre and business plan, before there were computers everywhere on Earth.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, March 09, 2007

Weekend Contest: Free Karan Casey Tickets for St. Patrick's Day

Our giveaway last week for the Karan Casey show was received so nice, we will do it twice.

We won't even ask a cute, leading question to promote the show. We will just give away the goods in a business-like manner. Send in your request for consideration to win (two tickets, Karan Casey Band, State Theater, Saturday 17 March), to Small World Music:

Last week's winner was K.C., who fantasizes someday seeing Karan Casey's band at Taughannock in the summer. Congratulations, to KC, and thanks to all enterers.

Good luck! -
Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog and Small World Music

Weekend Activities, March 9 & 10

Friday 9 March: Before he was famous, Bob Dylan traveled to England to meet Martin Carthy, and hear him play. He came back with a headful of ideas that would drive him soon to fame, and a pocketful of songs from Carthy's repertoire to borrow and adapt with glee ("These tunes I am a-changing," he might have said). Tonight, the legendary Mr. Carthy is in Ithaca, with his wife and daughter, both accomplished songsters, too. At Kennedy Hall at Cornell, 8 p.m. Tickets $17 at the door, $15 in advance at Small World Music.

Saturday 10 March: Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul have held the Irish chair at GrassRoots Festival a few times, but they have substantial jazz and world influences, too. They are both virtuosic and rollicking. At the State Theater, 8 p.m. Special discount on ticket prices - practically 2 for 1 - if you also buy a ticket for the St. Patrick's Day show at the State, with Karan Casey.

After Eileen's show, you'll still have plenty of time to catch Boy With A Fish and Mary Lorson at the Chapter House. 10 p.m.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Now It's Courtside R.I.P.

The Courtside health club on East Hill will officially announce its closing today. The closing is scheduled for this Sunday, 11 March.

Rebate information for members will be posted on Courtside's website.

The closing comes three months after the planned closing of the City Health Club in downtown Ithaca, and its subsequent turnaround. City Health's planned closure spurred action from members, staff, investors, and others for an emergency plan to keep the club operating. It remains open today.

A similar turnaround for Courtside seems unlikely, with the short notice between the announcement and the planned closure.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Karan Casey on the Cover of the Pennysaver

Well, it was a paid ad, not an article. But it was a kick to see Karan Casey on the cover of the Pennysaver yesterday.

The peace groups sponsoring Karan's benefit concert are trying to reach out to new audiences. It will be a big effort trying to fill the State Theater. The show was originally scheduled for Kennedy Hall at Cornell, for significantly less rental. But the State Theater was vacant on St. Patrick's Day, and the organizers decided to undertake the challenge of making the show work there, to maximize the impact of the message for peace.

Ithaca Blog's giveaway of two tickets for the show is still underway. Check the posting from last Friday, and get in to win!

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Libby Found Guilty: Why It Happened This Way

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, ex-chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, was found guilty today on four of five felony counts of lying under oath in the investigation of the Valerie Plame case.

In 2003, the Bush administration leaked the identity of Ms. Plame, an undercover CIA agent, to the press in retaliation for criticism by her husband, Joseph Wilson, of the administration's justification for war in Iraq.

Mr. Libby was not charged as the original or sole source of the leak. No one was, although the investigation revealed that Libby, Karl Rove, and Richard Armitage of the Bush administration all provided information to journalists about Ms. Plame's identity.

Why didn't the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, charge anyone with the original offense under investigation?

Because that case hinged on intent, and intent is a tough thing to prove.

Almost anything is tough to prove in court, beyond a reasonable doubt. Murder is hard to prove. Look at O.J. Simpson. Look at John Gotti. Simpson was acquitted. Mob guys historically go down not for their real, most serious crimes, but for ancillary crimes you can prove, like income tax evasion.

Successful prosecution of a serious crime usually requires a confession, a witness, or an informer.

No one in the Bush administration was about to confess.

So Fitzgerald investigated, and interrogated, and waited for someone in the conspiracy to trip, by lying under oath. Libby tripped.

Once that happened, the prosecutor's goal is to turn the person caught in a lie into a witness. He offers immunity for testimony against the bigger guys who ran everything.

Libby didn't bite. Why would he? If he turns evidence, his professional career is ruined for all time. His livelihood depends on patronage.

If, instead, he takes his chances with a jury, he might easily win. Even if he loses, it's just a temporary blip in his career. He does 18 to 36 months in a playpen, and when he gets out, he gets taken care of. That's happening already. Republicans have raised millions of dollars for him: a lot more money than he would ever earn otherwise.

So, today, he is found guilty, and justice is served, at least technically. Fitzgerald didn't get to try the cases he wanted. But he tried the case he could, and he won.

And he brought to light the facts of the administration conspiracy. Today, Fitzgerald said, "It's not the verdict that justifies the investigation. It's the facts."

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Weekend Contest: Win Karan Casey Tickets!

This week's quiz question: How can you have a better St. Patrick's Day than to spend it at the State Theater with Karan Casey's band, at a concert to benefit local peace work?

Post a reply to that question here at Ithaca Blog, or send one to Small World Music at, for a chance to win two tickets to Karan's concert on Saturday, 17 March. The winner will be randomly selcted from all entries.

The winner of last week's contest was E.R.W., who reckons that "Scooter" Libby is guilty as charged for perjury and obstruction of justice on all 5 counts. ERW identified himself as a lawyer, and characterized his response as an opinion, not a prediction. "You can never tell, with a jury", he said.

Congratulations to E., who won a $10 gift certificate to Small World Music, and thanks to all who entered.

Luck of the Irish to you this week.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

Friday, March 02, 2007

Ithaca Journal's No Opinion Page

The Ithaca Journal has to be the only paper in the country with a No Opinion policy on its Opinion page.

Granted, it's not a strict policy. The Journal is happy to offer opinions on less consequential matters. But on important issues, they offer paralysis.

The current example is the school bond vote. It's a big issue. Should the school district spend $98.4 million to upgrade facilities? The vote is next week.

The Journal's stance? It's too important an issue for them to have an opinion. They really said that.

They said the same thing in the very important election for district attorney last year. You may remember, the differences between the two candidates, liberal Democrat Gwen Wilkenson and conservative Republican George Dentes, could hardly have been more pronounced. But rather than offer any guidance, the Journal took a pass. They said their responsibility is to present facts, and let readers make up their own minds.

Well, no. Presenting facts is half a newspaper's job. Presenting opinion is the other. Then the readers evaluate the facts, and the opinion, and they make an informed vote. Readers count on their newpaper not only to report, but to evaluate, and to endorse, and to offer all those things for scrutiny.

Like the d.a.'s race, the school bond issue is immensely important to this town, and is hotly contested. In such situations, you can count on the Journal to duck.

Is it because they don't want to offend anybody? Hardly. They offend people a fair amount.

It's that they don't want to back a loser. If they can't tell who's going to win, they say nothing. And you are out of luck looking for responsible opinion leadership in your town.

Maybe there is hope for change, if readers wrote demanding leadership from them. Then they might realize the damage they do to their own credibility by dodging the issues we count on them to analyze.

Or maybe they just don't care. They are the only daily newspaper in town.

But there are other media these days. Such as this weblog. Ours is a modest enterprise, to be sure. But there seems to be room to grow into the shoes the Journal refuses to fill.

For the record: we support the bond proposal.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog